Recently, we have seen a few state bureaucrats violating the COVID-19 protocols, while it was their responsibility to encourage citizens to obey the norms. If carefully examined, one can certainly see their behaviour as being motivated by their distorted understanding of the law, which they see as being purely intended to repress the powerless.
On May 15, 2020, a couple of returnees arrived at Imphal Airport. Some among them belonged to influential families. Here, what left one completely shocked was that their parents drove them home from there in private cars instead of going to quarantine centres. Yet another disheartening case, we have seen signs of favouritism in a few quarantine centres.
As we all know, every inmate in the centres must be tested for the virus. Nevertheless, there were discrimination when taking blood samples for the viral test. We have witnessed ample cases in which management gives preference to well-connected inmates rather than to follow existing criteria for viral testing. And now it has been so open that even TV talk shows discussed this, appealing not to politicize COVID-19.
Here, one must be realistic enough to see that the virus is new and peculiar and that our answer should be equally new and peculiar. If we continue with our old ethos--the liberal ideals, we're sure to have a heavy defeat in the hands of the virus. So now, at least, is the time for a respite from nepotism, corruption, and favouritism. With the same attitude, our privileged class has tried to serve its interests at the expense of society. This can be seen as a manifestation of their morality, which has grown on the soil of social inequality, shaping who they are today.
When a pandemic calls for equal treatment of people, their inner self seeks to treat them first at the expense of the powerless or the less connected. Around the same time, they don't want to stay in quarantine centres as they think the centres won't be as good as they expected. These bureaucrats seem to have forgotten that a society is a structure where its different parts work together to maintain its stability; and if one of its parts malfunctions, the whole will be disrupted.
In the same way, their misstep could undermine the smooth and effective functioning of quarantine centres, which protects the state from community transmission of COVID-19. We will win this war if we fight it in an organized way with everyone behaving responsibly. So, for this COVID-fighting system to work effectively, these people need to recognize their manifest and latent part in the war. Notice the possible destructive implications of your actions, and how it could carry the entire social effort to the gutter. An analysis of the phenomenon using interpretive theories might help us understand why such things happen in such trying days. COVID requires a new form of social interaction not based on pre-COVID social values and the morality that underlies them.
A social change can be brought as people develop a shared understanding that change needs to take place and interact to make the change happen. If the interaction is based on what they are doing now—selfishness, nepotism, corruption—there will be no change in the positive direction. If we continue to do this, it will be very damaging to society as a whole, including those who do it. If community transmission of the virus happens, one cannot think that it will leave the rich or the powerful uninfected. The virus will not recognize one's social status or social class. Luckily, there is no community spread so far, but with 85 active cases now, the state's health care system seems to have almost collapsed. If community transmission happens in the state as a result of the irresponsible act or arrogance of these VIPs, it would be difficult for our health system to cope with the situation.
The virus would not take even one month to infect the 14 or 15 lakhs of people concentrated in the 24 square kilometres big valley. Then, what shall we do? Once we fight together, it's crystal clear that we can defeat the virus. It can be inferred, therefore, that our strength to overcome the disease lies in our unity. That may be why a few thinking personalities come up with the idea of communitization to combat the pandemic. However, standing as a people with a unitary spirit to save ourselves from the viral assault calls for an act of setting aside all pre-COVID mindsets of corruption, the notion of low and high, nepotism and favouritism. As one needs all of his fingers to bend and curl together to make a powerful punch, we have to unite and stop with the old regressive ideas. Or else, writing on the wall says that we're going to have a huge defeat.
(The views expressed in the article are the writer's own)